Switzerland is beautiful, and for me it has always been a place of refuge. Most relevant to my life right now, it is 180 degrees different from India. Where India is loud, Switzerland is quiet. Where India is dirty, Switzerland is clean. Where India is crowded, Switzerland is spacious. I took pictures of the streets, the landscape, and even the homeless, because the difference between a homeless Swiss person and a homeless Indian, is (or at least can be), remarkable.
My grandparents (who settled in the United States after fleeing Nazi-Germany in 1939) retired to Switzerland when I was a child. Every few years my mother would take me to see them. After graduating college, I expatriated myself for 18 months in Europe where I taught English, traveled, and made a handful of lifelong friends. (I stayed with one of them during this trip.) I was living in Prague, it was 1992, and the city was was being hailed as the new Paris of the ’20s. I’m not sure that’s an accurate comparison, but the comparison was in fact being made. The winters were long, cold, dark and gray. Lots of people were drinking.Lots of people were smoking. Lots of people were speaking the international language. And some of those people were creating art. I cannot claim to have created anything in that period of my life. I was simply decompressing, deconstructing, and falling in love often. Europe has that effect on me.
My Grandfather had died only months before my graduation. My grandmother (who was my favorite person on the planet — so much so that I named my daughter after her), welcomed me with open arms as I would breeze through town between summer romances to wash my clothes. I would rest my bones, feed my tummy and heal my heart. While living in Prague, I would take the night-bus to Switzerland and visit her for extended vacations. She fed me well, she gave me unconditional love, and she told me the truth about her life as a refugee. I was and I remain amazed at the resiliency of the human spirit.
It was not intentional that 20 years later I would follow India with Switzerland, but the choice turned out to be a wise one. As much as I loved India, it wasn’t an easy place to be. Once again Switzerland would heal me. Once again I would find warmth in the smiles of people who love me. Once again I would visit my grandmother’s home (the building is about to be razed) and my grandfather’s grave.
He’s one of a handful of Jews buried in Zug, but there are dozens of deceased named “Hans.” Swiss grave-sites are sometimes temporary, and I was told his had only been reserved for 15 years. I spent more than half an hour searching for his stone, and had all but given up when at last I found it. I was so happy. I’ve never really understood cemeteries and gravestones and hanging on to death, but it was somehow deeply meaningful to me to be able to find my grandfather’s burial place. I spoke to him silently for 20 minutes, telling everything that had happened since my last visit. I can only hope another 10 years won’t go by before I visit this country and the memories of my family again.
Visiting old memories and recovering from India was not my reason for coming, however. I came here to teach a Three Minute Egg® workshop to a handful of people who were kind enough to sign up without much advance-notice. Two of the participants had been teaching longer than I’ve been practicing, and one had been practicing for less than 2 years. My sense was that everyone felt great about their experience. The studio was small, but beautiful. It was located in a very hip and industrial section of Zurich. And when I say, “Industrial…,” I mean everything in Switzerland is so beautiful. The slums probably have zoning! This old factory building had been converted into über-cool and swanky lofts — the yoga studio occupied one of them. It wasn’t easy to find, but it also didn’t take much to create a cozy vibe in the room and get our Egg on. My Swiss distributor, Yoga-Artikel, was kind enough to loan me 24 Eggs for use in the class,and on my way to find his warehouse, I passed road signs actually pointing to “Egg!” I mean, come on. Does this country love me, or what?
Carmen was a gracious hostess and took me out to a delicious Indian dinner, and Sara (the long lost friend with whom I stayed while I was there) joined the class and took all the pictures.